On Wednesday, October 30th, AMC Delaware Valley Chapter outdoor leader and Mid Atlantic conservation policy staff joined 36 hikers to walk 9 miles and talk about the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The group gathered adjacent to the historic Thompson-Neeley House in Bucks County, PA and AMC Hike leader Greg Barnet greeted everyone, passing around a sign-in sheet at 10am that morning. The hiker’s planned route would take them along the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania-side, across the bridge at Pennington Road to Washington Crossing State Park in Mercer County, New Jersey and back. For late October in southeastern PA the temperature was mild, approximately 59 degrees, and the air was still. An overcast sky and misty rain provoked most participants to don rain jackets and hats. Standing in a large circle, the hikers listened readily as Appalachian Mountain Club’s Kimberly Witt shared background and the latest legislative updates on the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Many AMC Delaware Valley Chapter leaders, members and hikers supported LWCF campaigns in the past. When Witt asked the group about their familiarity with the federal program, half of the hikers raised their hands indicating awareness.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides money for planning, development and acquisition projects to advance the health and vitality of the public through outdoor recreation and conservation. Congress enacted legislation authorizing the fund in 1965, and for over 50 years LWCF has protected and enhanced outdoor recreation and natural areas across the country. In Pennsylvania, LWCF has provided $325M since 1965, and New Jersey has received $357M. Advocates, including Appalachian Mountain Club, worked for many years spreading the word about LWCF contributions.
Several hikers smiled, nodded and clapped as Witt re-capped recent legislative success through the John D. Dingell Junior Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act which permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Signed into law in March 2019, the Act answered advocate calls to #SaveLWCF from expiration.
The next wave of the campaign to strengthen the LWCF focuses on annual funding. While legislation authorizes disbursement of $900M from the fund each year, that level of funding is rarely fully realized. In fact, most years Congress appropriates just over half of that amount. Trail users and conservation-minded groups want Congress to #FundLWCF.
Witt shared that there is good news on the Hill. There are bills in both the House and the Senate to provide full, dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund at the level of $900M, annually. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) introduced S1081, and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (NJ) introduced HR3195 this year. Decisionmakers from across the aisle offer bipartisan support to both bills. Sen Bob Casey (PA) supports S1081, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) has been dedicated to HR3195. Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ) also support HR3195. Witt asked the group to “[p]lease contact your representatives to tell them that full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is important to you, and you want the bill passed this year.”
Greg Barnet directed the group to move toward the trail access point, and hikers began to funnel onto the Delaware Canal Towpath. Southbound travel on the gravel multi-use trail provided views of the swift-moving Delaware River on the left and of the still-water Delaware Canal on the right. Fall foliage lingering on the trees lining the river banks offered red, orange and yellow contrast to the cloudy sky above. The canal looked dark and colored leaves floated delicately on the water and laid sprinkled on grassy areas surrounding the canal.
On the trail, hikers conversed with one another. Many discussed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, recent hiking experiences at Baldpate Mountain, previous club work on local conservation priorities, and the upcoming chapter annual dinner. Upon reaching Washington Crossing, the group ducked under one of the canal’s iconic red bridges and poured into a local pizzeria for lunch. After the meal, participants gathered again to return northbound on the trail.
As hikers finished the 9-mile trip, AMC Delaware Valley Chapter leadership, the hike leader and AMC staff called out to the group again, “Contact your federal representatives and senators! Urge them to support the bills to fully fund LWCF. We want support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund!”
Take Action – Contact your members of Congress and ask them to #FundLWCF. Stories about specific places you love that have benefited from LWCF funding are the most powerful.